Dover 1988.( Originally Harper Brothers 1961 entitled BIOGRAPHY OF PHYSICS ). ISBN 0-486-25767-3.

When George Gamow died in 1968 he was already well known as the author of the Mr Tompkins popular physics books (still available from Cambridge University Press and said to have inspired John Gribbin among others). He discovered the quantum explanation of radioactivity (while still working in Russia), simultaneously and independently with Edward Condon who by a great coincidence was later to be his neighbour in Boulder when they both joined the University of Colorado physics department.

As he said before he died, "Finally my liver is presenting the bill.", summing up a life of carefree drinking, eating, good humour, sports and an unusual friendly egoism. His attitude to physics was also larger than life and he was known for finding the right scientific topics for research and introducing conceptual simplicity to them. Along with other ideas he came up with the theory of the "Big Bang" although according to Ulam he didn't like the name.

In Biography of Physics he takes on the whole story of physics from start to finish including Pythagoras and Archimedes whom the Dover editors forgot when they retitled the book The Great Physicists from Galileo to Einstein. They also haven't looked through the diagrams and formulas that are sometimes transcribed wrongly.

Fortunately Gamow has a great way of presenting things only using maths where it is really essential and he is very good at using analogies. He builds the story around the main characters involved and highlights the key experiments that each of them did (or devised) to move science forward.

On the whole the book tends to support Lewis Wolpert's idea (The Unnatural Nature of Science ) that science thinking has nothing to do with common sense and that people are not at all adapted to carry out long chains of abstract logical type thought. This seems to show up in the extremely halting rate of progress in scientific advance, particularly after it's Greek beginnings.

Until recently the whole project had a very amateurish feel to it and Gamow obviously enjoys this aspect and has a bias towards the experimental side, quoting for example from one of Faraday's letters to a friend written in 1811; "I have lately made a few simple galvanic experiments, merely to illustrate to myself the first principles of science....I, Sir, I my own self, cut out seven discs of the size of halfpennies each. I, Sir, covered them with seven halfpence, and I interposed between, seven , or rather six, pieces of paper soaked in a solution of muriate of soda!!! But laugh no longer, dear A.; rather wonder at the effect this trivial powder produced..." This was the start of electrolysis and he was doing his experiments while working as an apprentice bookbinder reading whatever science books he came across. As he said, "I made such simple experiments as could be defrayed in their expense by a few pence per week, and also constructed an electrical machine, first with a glass phial, and afterwards with a real cylinder as well as other electrical apparatus of a corresponding kind."

In the introduction Gamow says that his aim is to "give the reader the feeling of what physics is and what kind of people physicists are,.."(his italics) and in this he may have succeeded with an excellent book.

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